Review update: The 2019 Ford Ranger hauls more than cabbage

October 31, 2019

The Ford Ranger returned to the U.S. in 2019 after a seven-year hiatus, but it’s not a new truck.

The 2019 Ford Ranger sitting on Blue Oval dealership lots across the U.S. is a refreshed version of the global truck that has been sold in developing countries for nearly a decade. Yet, the mid-size pickup's turbocharged powertrain makes it feel far more modern than the Chevrolet Colorado and the ancient wonders known as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.

With a TCC Rating of 5.8, the 2019 Ford Ranger features good performance with standard active safety tech, a pleasant interior, and switchgear that can be manhandled. But its transmission always isn’t perfect, car seats can be a pain, and it can get expensive for a small truck.

After a long weekend hauling cabbage in the bed, running the kids around town, and simply living with the 2019 Ford Ranger, it’s the small truck to get if the more civilized Honda Ridgeline isn't up to more truck-like demands or if you don't need the off-road chops of the Jeep Gladiator.

2020 Ford Ranger FX2

2020 Ford Ranger FX2

Power to get the job done. Under the hood of every 2019 Ranger is a 2.3-liter turbo-4 with 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque sent to the rear or all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain makes the competitors feel slow thanks to a flat torque curve, lots of grunt early in the rev range, and a slick 10-speed transmission that is typically in the right gear, though it did exhibit a few hard low-speed shifts and lurched when put into reverse twice. From a stop the Ranger can bark its rear tires and quickly reach illegal speeds. Passing power isn’t an issue and it’s rated to lug up to 7,500 pounds when properly equipped.

 

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger

This is a truck. The Ranger sounds like a truck, drives like a truck, and feels like a truck. On cold start, Ford made the small turbo-4 sound like a larger engine to retain that tough truck sound. It retains this same noise at low-speed driving while cold. This could be good or bad, depending on how you want to present your mid-size truck. The steering is muddy and vague while the ride is harsh, and at times, bouncy over broken pavement. A Honda Ridgeline is far more refined and the Chevrolet Colorado doesn’t buck as much on broken pavement.

Safety first. Every 2019 Ranger comes standard with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, which is not offered on the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado. The $45,545 Lariat tester featured adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors along with automatic high beams, and LED lighting.

 

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger

Car seats can be a pain. While the full-size F-150 has loops at the top of the rear seats to connect car seat tethers, the Ranger requires the seat back to be released and folded down to access the top tether latch. You have to set the car seat on the rear seat, then fold the seat forward to hook the latch to this top tether point. Then push the seat back against the cab and tighten the mounting points to secure the car seat. After doing this feat twice I can report it’s neither fun nor easy.

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger

Functional interior. The interior of a truck should put functionality first and foremost, and the Ranger handles it with big buttons, real knobs, and controls that are easy to use while wearing gloves. The Lariat model I spent time in had a soft-touch dashboard and hard, low-sheen plastics. Easy to wipe down, hard on the elbows. It’s conservative in design, but is a nicer place to spend time than inside the Toyota Tacoma with its cheap plastics that would embarrass LEGO.

How thirsty? The 2019 Ford Ranger I tested had EPA fuel economy ratings of 20/24/22. The trip computer matched the highway rating, but in suburban driving mixed with more freeway time, it averaged slightly more than 20 mpg. Turbos are great for power, but they suck gas when they are spooling. Most of the time behind the wheel of the Ranger was spent lugging around with a lighter foot on the throttle. A full-size F-150 with twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 can average 19 mpg in mixed real-world driving, though it drops from there as the turbos spool at higher highway speeds. The Ranger’s size is a selling point over the larger F-150, but the fuel economy isn’t much different.

At $45,545, the 2019 Ford Ranger Lariat was downright expensive for a small pickup truck. It was well equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bang and Olufsen audio system, heated leather seats, spray-in bedliner, and an off-road package with an electronic locking differential.

With a field of older trucks as its competition, the Ranger is a winning workhorse that quickly gets expensive as four-wheel drive and four full doors enter the picture. For everyone else there’s the Honda Ridgeline, which is far better riding and driving for day-to-day use.

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2019 Ford Ranger Lariat 4x4
Base price: $25,495
Price as tested: $45,545
EPA fuel economy: 20/24/22
The hits: Strong performance, easy-to-use interior, it’s a truck
The misses: Gets expensive, not the most car-seat friendly, can be thirsty, rough ride

2019
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2019
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